January 21, 2012

The stereotypical artist

"The Frustrated Artist" by BlotoAngeles

"The artistic temperament is a difficult one to deal with...the things that make artists sensitive to beauty and truth are the same things that can make it difficult for them to get along with others. Let's face it: artists are not accountants. Many of them cannot handle their finances, much less their emotions. Of course there are exceptions, but the tortured, angst-filled, manic-depressive artist is a typical character that everyone recognizes in books, in film or in their personal lives."
-from "Pure Scum: The Left-Out, the Right-Brained and the Grace of God" by Mike Sares

This does not describe me. I do not have trouble getting along with others. Sure, I'm terrible at math, but I like money very much and I do my best to take care of it. I can be emotional, but no more than the average girl, I guess. Okay, fine, maybe my husband would disagree with that last one but I AM TRYING TO MAKE A POINT HERE.

When I first went to art school, I expected to meet lots of weird, artsy people. I was surprised to discover that my classmates and teachers are remarkably.........normal. They're quiet. Hardworking. Funny. Perceptive. Kind.

Exhibit A: my landscape painting class.

What a bunch of tortured, angst-filled crazies, right? Especially that girl on the far right, she's a real basketcase.

As for artists not being able to handle their finances, that's just silly. Most fine artists and illustrators work freelance, which requires both creativity and business sense. They need to know how to market themselves, run a website, contact galleries and agents, price their work, and manage an income that varies from month to month. Artists who can't handle money will eventually be forced to work as Subway "sandwich artists." (ba dum ching!)

The one generalization about artists that I would concede to is that they suffer from a sense of insecurity about their work - at least young artists do. They wonder if they're good enough. They feel continual guilt about not working harder. They constantly compare themselves to other artists. They wonder if they should just give up and go back to their cubicle job. I don't know if I've met a single classmate who couldn't identify with this.

But for the most part, I see this insecurity drive them to work harder. They bravely press on, not indulging depressive episodes with cigarettes or whining about how no one understands their vision. They just get out their sketch pads and keep drawing. Because that's what artists do.

What do you think? Have you known anyone who fit the "temperamental artist" stereotype? Do you wear a beret?


  1. Very well written! I couldn't agree with you more :)

  2. When I started art school I found people extremely normal. It was actually the theatre students (who shared a building with us) who were temperamental and over-dramatic. Of course their purpose is to express emotions that way so that makes sense.

    I have had friends who went to other art schools that found everyone there were temperamental over the top artist types. I think some schools draw those people, and when it starts with a few they feed off of each other and become the same.

    But I feel to be a successful professional artist you cannot be like that. You have to have some sense of maturity, you are constantly dealing with people. It's not often when an artist becomes known overnight, it takes years of networking and social interaction which would fall apart upon being temperamental and difficult to get along with.

    I get along great with others. I love people. And I think art as a personal exploration of my emotions has made me become more aware of them.

    Anyways that's my 2 cents on the matter. : )

  3. Thanks Lenoracle, that's really interesting. I completely agree that to be a professional artist definitely requires people skills.

  4. I still have your beret, you know.


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